Thursday 9th February 2023


It is a great pleasure to be with you once again. It is exactly a year to the day since I last had the privilege of visiting the Storting to talk about Iran. A great deal has happened since then. Last week, the Sunday Times reported that the Iranian regime is now hiring crime gangs in the UK, EU and US to murder dissidents. The newspaper said that security officials and counter-terrorism police in London have confirmed that the mullahs have turned their attention to mobilizing organised crime groups to carry out assassinations, in a bid to bypass the tight scrutiny their agents face following the introduction of tough Western sanctions. The warning follows similar claims by the head of MI5 that the British Security Service uncovered ten Iranian plots to kidnap or assassinate British residents last year. With the nationwide uprising in Iran now into its fifth month, the mullahs are becoming increasingly desperate. They have already killed over 750 protesters, including many women and children. A further 30,000, mostly young protesters, have been arrested. Many of them have been tortured and forced to sign false confessions that have led directly to a death sentence. It is understood that at least 109 have been sentenced to death. 4 young men have already been executed for taking part in the street protests. But not content with murdering dissidents at home, the mullahs seem determined to eliminate human rights protesters abroad.

In a desperate bid to quell dissent and free up space in his vastly overcrowded prisons, the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, last week announced that he will pardon or commute the sentences of tens of thousands of the arrested protesters. However, there are strict conditions attached. Firstly, in exchange for a reprieve, each detainee will be forced to confess to a crime and will be required to give a written agreement never to riot again. In a sinister comment, Khamenei, who has the final say in all of these matters, said certain political prisoners would not be eligible for reprieve, including foreign or dual citizens or people who committed espionage or had direct contact with foreign intelligence agents. Clearly these political prisoners are being lined up for execution, like Alireza Akbari the British-Iranian who was once the regime’s deputy defence minister but was hanged in January after being falsely accused of spying for MI6

But even as Khamenei was announcing an amnesty for those arrested during the nationwide insurrection, the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), the theocratic regime’s Gestapo, was still going about its usual repressive business, using lethal force against unarmed civilian protesters and even arresting journalists. Like everything else in Iran today, the amnesty can be dismissed as a desperate gesture by a regime that is on its last legs. 

Last year, when I spoke here, I predicted that 80 million Iranians were facing abject poverty and destitution and repeated protests and uprisings were a clear indication that a major revolt was brewing. That revolt was triggered last September by the murder in custody of the young Kurdish girl Mahsa Amini, by the so-called morality police, for the offence of not wearing her hijab properly. It sparked a nationwide uprising that has seen tens of thousands chanting slogans such as “Death to Khamenei! Damned be Khamenei”, “Down with the oppressor, be it the Shah or the Supreme Leader (Khamenei)”. Sporadic protests are still going on across Iran and there are increasing signs that another huge uprising will take place during the Iranian New Year or Nowruz celebrations next month.

Against this background, it seemed to me an opportune time to publish my latest book -‘DICTATORSHIP AND REVOLUTION: Iran – A Contemporary History’. The book charts the political history of Iran from the start of the twentieth century, illuminating the defining curse that for generations has thwarted the Iranian people’s democratic aspirations, namely the corrupt and brutal alliance, tacit or explicit, of Iran’s monarchists and clerics.

As the mullahs’ regime attempts to crush all opposition during the current nationwide insurrection, I have focused on the moral and geopolitical perils resulting from Western political circles who have remained steadfastly detached from the reality of Iran. It should not require intellectual gymnastics to see that Iran’s leaders have forfeited any pretence of a mandate to govern, when security forces are battering and firing upon young women and even schoolgirls demanding relief from tyranny in over 300 cities. 

For many years I have supported the main democratic opposition movement, the Mojahedin-e Khalq (MEK) and the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), led by the extraordinary Mrs Maryam Rajavi. The NCRI is, notwithstanding decades of regime-promoted propaganda to the contrary, a women-led, non-violent resistance movement dedicated to popular sovereignty, separation of religion and state, equal gender rights, an end to the death penalty, political legitimacy through the ballot box, commitment to international norms, and a non-nuclear Iran. 

My hope is that by exposing years of complacency and appeasement by the EU, UK, US and the UN, my book will send a clear message to western governments that the time has come to recognize the Iranian people’s struggle for regime change and to offer them unequivocal support.

This message is particularly important now, as the situation in Iran has become quite literally explosive. Desperate to rescue their economy which is in a state of collapse, the mullahs have persisted with their cynical demand for the lifting of all sanctions in return for them re-engaging with the conditions of the deeply flawed Joint Comprehensive Plan if Action (JCPOA) nuclear deal. Of course, this is a blatant deception. The mullahs used the cover of the JCPOA to continue with their clandestine campaign to build a nuclear weapon. Their activities never stopped.

Now, Rafael Grossi, the director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has expressed his deep concern over the theocratic regime’s growing stock of enriched uranium. He told the European Parliament last week that: “They have amassed enough nuclear material for several nuclear weapons — not one at this point.” Grossi claimed the mullahs have accumulated 70 kilograms of uranium enriched to 60% purity, only a fraction short of weapons’ grade, and 1,000 kilograms at 20% purity. He told the European Parliament that the IAEA had reached a “big, big impasse” on the issue, claiming that the Iranian regime has disconnected 27 of his agency’s surveillance cameras at their nuclear sites, meaning that the IAEA can no longer effectively monitor what is going on.

Grossi’s most recent disclosure exposed the mullahs’ covert campaign to accelerate the production of a nuclear weapon, while simultaneously attempting to dupe the West into believing they were keen to resurrect the moribund nuclear deal. The Biden administration and the EU have misguidedly tried to raise the zombie deal from the dead, in a wretched act of appeasement, although now the combination of the regime’s brutal crackdown on protesters and the fact that they are actively supplying weaponized drones to Russia for Putin’s illegal war in Ukraine, has sounded the final death knell for the JCPOA.

Grossi says that intends to visit Iran this month to resume talks with Iranian officials over their nuclear program. He is right to be concerned. Binyamin Netanyahu’s new hard-right coalition government in Israel is made up of a solid wall of Iran hawks, determined to stop the mullahs ever attaining a nuclear weapon. The explosive nature of the situation once again shines a spotlight on the futility of Western efforts to appease the mullahs. 

Of course, the ever-opportunistic monarchists, who fled following the 1979 revolution and have done nothing since, sense the downfall of the mullahs and yearn to return to the tyrannical power and palaces that they lost. Although he has no backing inside Iran, it has not dissuaded Reza Pahlavi, the son of the late Shah and self-proclaimed crown prince, from seeking the restoration of the monarchy. The mullahs have seized on this as a way to create confusion within the ranks of the demonstrators and create difficulties for the MEK and their burgeoning Resistance Units, who have guided and coordinated the uprising from the outset. Attempts by the theocratic regime to infiltrate street protests with agents who claim to support the restoration of the Shah, have rapidly backfired and been exposed as publicity stunts aimed at distorting the demands of the demonstrators. That is why protesters can routinely be heard yelling “No to the Shah! No to the mullahs”. 

Threats, lies, warmongering, deploying terror gangs abroad and crushing dissent at home, are the hallmarks of this oppressive regime. The courageous protesters, led from the start by women, who risk their lives daily by demanding the overthrow of the mullahs, deserve the unequivocal backing of the West. The EU and UK must now follow America’s lead by blacklisting the IRGC and indicting Khamenei, Ebrahim Raisi and the other tyrants for human rights abuse and crimes against humanity. The time for weakness and appeasement is over. We should recall our ambassadors from Tehran and expel their diplomatic staff and agents from our territories. Only the overthrow of this tyrannical regime will avert a nuclear disaster and restore peace, justice and democracy to the Iranian people and the wider Middle East.